Top Ten Tuesday {4}

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. They'd love to share their lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week they will post a new top ten list that one of our bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.
Top Ten Books That Should Be In Your Beach Bag (Your Perfect Beach Reads):

1. Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler - Let's see, it's not really rocket science. Summer, get the picture, eh?

2. Beastly by Alex Flinn - It's a quick read, it's fun, and it's pretty much brainless. If you love fairy tales, this is the perfect beachy read for you.

3. The Darlings are Forever by Melissa Kantor - It's fun, and it's girly. Plus, you always spend your summer with your best friends, right? Why not read about them, too?

4. Gossip Girl by Cecily Von Ziegesar - Pure. Brainless. Fun. Why be deep when you can be shallow?

5. The Liar Society by Lisa & Laura Roecker - Hey, you can never go wrong with a good mystery, a snarky protagonist and a great plot.

6. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty - It's the start of one of my favourite contemporary series, and that's saying something, especially because I don't LOVE contemps.

7. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar - It's got the beach, surfing and a whole lot of sweet melancholy and passion to keep you riveted while you get the perfect tan. Sold? Me too...*packing it now*.

8. A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle - It's one of my all-time favourites because it takes place during summer at the beach, and it has dolphins - automatic bonus, of course.

9. Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles - Yes, because I am THAT girl...the one who can't get over the beautiful, blossoming, sweet but oh-so-wrong summer romance.

10. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling - Notice how I didn't pick just one book? What list is possibly complete without some teenage sorcery and a bad guy with a snake-like nose? Oh, right. None. You're welcome.

Sometimes It Happens Review

Monday, May 30, 2011

Title: Sometimes It Happens
Author: Lauren Barnholdt
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Published: July 12, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 256
Source: S&S Galley Grab

On the last day of her junior year, Hannah's boyfriend Ryan dumped her. Facing a summer of loneliness, Hannah turns to her best friend Ava for comfort. Ava does what BFFs do: she stays by Hannah's side...until it's time for Ava to head up to Maine for the summer. Also left behind is Ava's boyfriend, Noah, who's such a great guy he gets Hannah a job at the diner he waits tables at. Slowly, Hannah comes out of her funk thanks to Noah's good conversation and their fun times at the diner.

But things get complicated when their friendship turns into attraction--and one night, into a passionate kiss. The novel opens on the first day of senior year; the day Hannah is going to see Ava, Ryan, and Noah all in one place. Over the course of the day secrets and betrayals are revealed, and alliances are broken and reformed. In the end, everyone is paired up once again, but not the way you might think...
Hannah isn't quite sure where she belongs in the social hierarchy anymore. She's been a best friend, a peacemaker, a wallflower and she's about to embark on the first day of her senior year, but there's a nagging suspicion in her mind that everything's about to change. She's right. When Hannah's friendship with her best friend's boyfriend crosses the line into something more while she's away, friendships, relationships and the entire fate of her senior year is on the line, and there's a good chance everything she's built is about to unravel. Will everything Hannah has fall apart? And, if so, was it worth it in the end?

Sometimes It Happens easily fits into the chick-flick niche of the YA contemporary genre. With a host of female characters, plenty of drama and a steady-paced plot, it's one of those books that moves from start to finish with no real hiccups. Author Lauren Barnholdt has a fun, conversational tone that I'm now familiar with from her other work such as One Night That Changes Everything. Allowing the reader direct access to the main character's mind, Sometimes It Happens gives us a firsthand look at both an internal and external character struggle without becoming preachy or overbearing. Fun and flirty, cute and heartbreaking, Sometimes It Happens is sure to find a home on many a teenage shelf.

Now, while I really love the overall tone of Sometimes It Happens, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have some issues with the book. First of all, the synopsis as presented is misleading, and I'll say that I knew what had really happened to Hannah about two pages into the book because the foreshadowing was so heavy. I'm all for a bit of a hint of what's to come, but I'd really rather it be a surprise. Sometimes It Happens also features a bit of an interesting pace, that I think I'm leaning towards liking, though I wasn't sure at first. The book starts in the present, then shifts back to three months ago, giving us a bit of background, then shifts back to present-day. Luckily, Sometimes It Happens does this with ease, and it didn't feel too jarring. Here's my real issue with the book though, whether it be more personal opinion or not - I'm simply not an advocate of that statement "sometimes it happens." True, but it doesn't have to. Rant over. Being objective, I liked the development of Hannah's character, loathed Ava and her nasty streak, enjoyed Lexie's fun attitude and actually found myself liking Noah. Good characters can usually make up for what a book is lacking.

All in all, Sometimes It Happens was a cute read. Did I love it? Love is a strong word, so no, but it was fun, and it was a quick, easy read. I give it a 3 out of 5, and I'd recommend it to fans of the YA genre, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

I received this eARC free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

My Time at BEA & Giveaway #1

Sunday, May 29, 2011

So, as you all probably know, I spent the better half of this past week at BookExpo America, or better known as BEA at the Javits Center in New York City. I went in with few expectations, but I came out with a lot of books, amazing experiences and the chance to meet with some of my favourite authors and bloggers, as well as some of the fabulous contacts I've made since starting this lovely little site. It would be easy to say that the trip was worth it for the books, alone, but truly my time at BEA was made better by meeting other like-minded bloggers, readers and reviewers like myself, not the least of whom were the fabulous ladies behind Supernatural Snark, Bewitched Bookworms, Hobbitsies, Fiction Folio and more.

Now, a lot of what happened at BEA was exactly as I'd expected. For example, there were lines. LOTS of lines. There were also hundreds (maybe even thousands) of people milling about the center throughout the day. There was also definitely a tangible air of excitement from the time the doors opened and well past closing time. There were, however, also things I didn't expect. The bruises from book bags, overzealous fans and many more events that I was even expecting. I will definitely make a more set schedule next time because I most certainly intend to go again, and I definitely want more time to spend with more people, too. To those who couldn't go, don't worry! There's always next year, and remember that each year, things change up a wee, I've made sure to get a few treats for those of you who couldn't make it this year, too.

So, in the spirit of kicking off just the first of many to come BEA giveaways, I'm offering a very coveted ARC of the third book in Maggie Stiefvater's popular Shiver trilogy. What book, you ask? Well, see below (yes, it's really up for grabs!)

Here are the rules:
This giveaway ends at exactly midnight on June 11, 2011, and it's open internationally. You do NOT have to be a follower to enter, but it is definitely always appreciated. The winner will be chosen by the all-too-awesome, and the winner will be emailed directly. Still interested in the ARC of Forever
Click HERE to enter!

Wildefire Review

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Title: Wildefire
Author: Karsten Knight
Publisher: S&S Books for Young Readers
Published: July 26, 2011
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Pages: 393
Source: S&S Galley Grab

Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. J

ust as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.
Ashline lives in a modern-day stepford that's as cookie-cutter as it gets, and it's an understatement to say she stands out. Her sister, Eve, has a reputation for violence, and she's fast earning a reputation of her own, but she never meant for the events of that night to happen. What's meant to be a fresh new start at Blackwood Academy becomes the start of a brand new life for Asheline, and it's one she could never have imagined. With power beyond her imagination, others just like her and the threat of war looming over their heads, Ash has to learn to come to terms with her gifts and accept her fate or lose herself forever.

Wildefire has its work cut out for it, entering a world of paranormal fiction that ranges from series of vampires, reincarnations of Greek gods, werewolves and more. So, it should be no surprise when I say it has big shoes to fill if it wants to become another power player in YA fiction. I can wholeheartedly say that Wildefire was refreshing, fun and completely addicting. Author Karsten Knight has written one heck of a debut with a full-force plot that grips you from the start and refuses to let go even in the final pages of the book. Featuring a plot like a runaway train that builds momentum and ferocity as it goes, Wildefire is the perfect blend of action and imagery that makes for a powerful and intriguing story.

I find that in YA fiction, there's a delicate line that can't be crossed between character and plot development, and this is a line which Wildefire toes at times but manages to balance throughout. Ash and her older sister Eve set the pace for a whirlwind of violence and intrigue from the first chapter, but the addition of the secondary characters from Blackwood like Jackie, Darren, Raja, Serena, Ade and Rolfe enriched the backstory and fueled the plot. Despite seeming like an overwhelming number of important characters to remember, Wildefire manages to make each character have a significant and potent impact, whether it be good or bad. I'll admit that, at times, I felt Ash's thought processes were tedious - for example, one moment she'd seem confident that nothing would phase her, and the next she was as nervous as the others - but, for the most part, she felt genuine. She was snarky, and funny and endearing in the sense that she wasn't your ordinary bad girl or good girl. She was just real. (And can I just say how much I loved the prominence of strong, fabulous and empowering female characters?!) Wildefire does feature violence that was difficult to stomach, but the language, balance between action and lulls and poetic imagery really made for a strong, well-rounded and riveting story.

All in all, I really enjoyed Wildefire, and I can honestly say that I've read a lot of paranormal stories, but this one raised the bar. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I'm dying for book two. Seriously, I want it right now. I highly recommend it to all fans of YA fiction, especially those who enjoy paranormal stories, mythology and strong female protagonists.

I received this eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Blood Red Road Review

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Title: Blood Red Road
Author: Moira Young
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Published: June 7, 2011
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 400
Source: S&S Galley Grab

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.
Saba lives her life in a barren world with only her father, younger sister and her twin brother to keep her company. Despite the fact that the world is in ruins and they are all each other has, Saba is okay because she knows she will always have them. When a band of unknown savages take her brother from the family though and irreparably damage their small family, Saba has to learn to fight to get him back - not just for her self, but for her little sister. But the world outside of Silverlake is a far cry from home, and it's as savage as it gets. Is she strong enough to do what must be done to save her brother and bring her family back together, or will she become just another bit of rubble littering their world?

Blood Red Road is entirely unlike any book I've ever read in my history of reviewing young adult books. I say this almost completely as a positive thing. Author Moira Young has spun a world that's every bit as dark and dismal as your worst nightmares. There was absolutely nothing in Saba's world that I envied or longed for - in terms of the physical world, itself. With a narrator that's rough around the edges in both dialect and personality, Blood Red Road presented a unique challenge for me. I had to not only learn to understand how Saba spoke, but I had to find the patience to watch her grow because it's in her growth that Blood Red Road comes alive.

Saba begins the book as a bit of a selfish character, in my humble opinion. She loves Lugh, her older brother, but she quite nearly despises her younger sister, Emmie, because her mother died giving birth to her. The relationship she had with her siblings was hard for me to fathom because I, personally, felt it was very self-centered. That said, once the action and plot moved past the basic scene-setting and development and the action began in Blood Red Road, I began to see some depth to her character and that, in turn, made her become more endearing to me. I will, however, state that Blood Red Road got off to a rocky start for me, only because I wasn't expecting the writing style. It's very raw and unpolished, and I struggled to come to terms with the voice, until I got to know Saba. Because of her character and her development, I now feel that the voice made Blood Red Road ring true and made the story more powerful. Furthermore, with a malevolent ruler, a mysterious band of captors and a devilishly handsome romantic interest, Blood Red Road had a bit of everything I loved all packaged in an entirely new story for me.

Despite the difficult beginning, I'm extremely glad I stuck with Blood Red Road. Because the voice is uncommon, I think it has the power to become that much more unique in a very crowded young adult genre. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA fiction, especially those who enjoy dystopian novels. I also suggest that if you do read it, be patient. It's a slow-burning book that builds in intensity and leads the way for another powerful series.

I received this eARC free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

In Which I'm Off to BEA...

Monday, May 23, 2011

It's true, my friends. I'm a day late due to the news I (still) can't tell you all, but I'm off to BEA today! If you don't know what BEA is, you may be living under a rock, but allow me to enlighten you...BEA is Book Expo America where little nerdlets like ourselves go get their geek on with authors, panels, conferences, exhibits and more, all dedicated to the amazing written word. How cool is that?!

Anyway, posts will be a bit sporadic this week, though comments should be good, so I'll do my best to keep you all updated! I have a busy schedule set up, and I'm so excited to meet some amazing bloggers, too. I hope to see all of you there!

In My Mailbox 5/22

Sunday, May 22, 2011

In My Mailbox is an amazing weekly meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren that features the books we have received during the week. It's so much fun because we get to see what our fellow bloggers stumbled upon this week and add even more to our piles of books! Without further ado, this week I received the following books:

All the Things You Are by Courtney Sheinmel (eARC) - Thank you, S&S Galley Grab

Wildefire by Karsten Knight (eARC) - Thank you, S&S Galley Grab

Sometimes it Happens by Lauren Barnholdt (eARC) - Thank you S&S Galley Grab

Blood Red Road by Moira Young (eARC) - Thank you, S&S Galley Grab

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder (eARC) - Thank you, S&S Galley Grab

Cleopatra Confesses by Caroline Meyer (eARC) - Thank you, S&S Galley Grab

Wrapped Review

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Title: Wrapped
Author: Jennifer Bradbury
Publisher: Atheneum
Published: May 24, 2011
Genre: YA, Hist-Fic
Pages: 256
Source: S&S Galley Grab

This is Agnes Wilkins’ debut season and already she’s attracting the attention of one of England’s most eligible and desirable men: Lord Showalter. He’s been quite forward about his intentions and Agnes finds this at once thrilling and terrifying. He is handsome and wealthy and has this quirky interest in helping England amass the world’s finest collection of Egyptian artifacts. It could be a good match—but everything Agnes knows about courtship and high society romance comes from A. Lady novels, and it seems to be a rule that men who are too good to be true are usually hiding something.

But, what Showalter is hiding is not crumbling finances or boarish behavior. He is deceiving the whole British Empire. He is spy working for Napoleon, his orders smuggled into London in Egyptian artifacts—like the one Agnes pockets while at a mummy unwrapping party at Showalter’s home. Her innocent interest in this trinket (and childish need to keep it) jump starts a chain of events that bring out dangerous characters, dangerous circumstances, and the biggest danger of all—true love.
Agnes is ready to enter society. It's 1815, and it's time for her to enjoy (and entertain) her first season of eligibility, which means she will have every opportunity to find a suitable husband with good intentions, wealth and interests. Lord Showalter is one such man, and he's got his eye on Agnes. When he invites her to a mummy-unrapping party, she accepts, sending her on a whirlwind adventure of lies, deceit and even the fate of England at Napoloeon's hand. Will she be able to stop the thievery and lies while maintaining her good name as a proper lady?

I don't read too much historical fiction. That's not to say I don't love historical fiction, it's just that I don't find too many that really break the mold. Wrapped has a great premise, and it's definitely one that I've never heard before, which intrigued me. Promising a plot full of twists and turns, as well as a lovable heroine, author Jennifer Bradbury has set up an adventure-filled novel that somehow manages to combine history and mummies into a cohesive and fun story.

Wrapped definitely didn't disappoint when it came to the main character. Agnes was seriously witty, and definitely more than what met the eye. She kept me guessing, and her little anecdotes added a touch of lighthearted hilarity to the story. Lord Showalter, though not nearly as deep, was a good character that perfectly Agnes's personality. I will, however, say that if you're looking for complete accuracy in the historical parts of the book, Wrapped won't meet your standards. The time period, though great for the story, wasn't entirely historically accurate. I will also say that, at times, I felt like the Jane Austen references within Wrapped were a bit too cluttered. That said, the tone throughout the book was fun, enjoyable and intriguing, so despite the somewhat obvious villain, the tone won out.

All in all, Wrapped is a fun read. It's not deep, and there was no real message hidden in multiple layers, but the plot was a nice, quick and simple read for me. I give it a strong 3.5 out of 5, and I'd recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy lighthearted chick-lit and historical fiction.

I received this eARC free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses Review

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Title: The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses
Author: Ty Drago
Publisher: Jabberwocky
Published: April 1, 2011
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Pages: 480
Source: Publisher

"On a sunny Wednesday morning in October, a day that would mark the end of one life and the beginning of another, I found out my grouchy next door neighbor was the walking dead. When you turn around expecting to see something familiar, and instead see something else altogether, it takes a little while for your brain to catch up with your eyes. I call it the 'Holy Crap Factor.'"

Forced to flee his home and family, twelve-year-old Will Ritter falls in with the Undertakers-a rag-tag army of teenage resistance fighters who've banded together to battle the Corpses.
Will wakes up one Wednesday, and it's just like every other day until he sees his neighbor, then his principal, then his teachers have all become a part of the living dead. Is it a new thing? Yes, and no. Will's one of the special few who can see these zombies among the living, making him an Undertaker with a special destiny. Suddenly, in addition to his twelve-year-old angst, pre-teen life, and all the glory that comes with it, Will is sent along a path with others like him because his gift dictates it. He might be a part of humanity's last line of resistance between the living and the dead, but that also means that his life will never be the same again.

Remember when vampires became popular? Then werewolves, angels and witches followed. Well, zombies have been on the train lately with shows like The Walking Dead and Zombieland popularizing the lore. The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses, however, does what few books and films say they will do - it takes the original idea, turns it on its tail and makes it into something entirely new. Author Ty Drago clearly had some clever mojo going when he wrote this one because he combined two seemingly polar opposite tales into a single, fully-functioning novel that's suspenseful, age-appropriate and seriously witty.

The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses truly is one of the freshest MG reads that I've got my hands on in a while. Will is a great protagonist. He's charming and smart, but he acts his age. Yes, there were a few moments where he slipped and I wondered why he suddenly sounded more mature, but overall, he felt entirely real. Will's friend, Tom, also consistently evolved throughout the book, and I felt their progression and character changes, although mostly subtle, were in sync with the plot. Speaking of the Talk about a fresh idea! I'm not going to spoil it for anyone, but let's just say that the zombies in The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses are nothing like what you read before. In fact, they might not be from this planet. Ponder that one.

All in all, The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses was a fun, fast-paced and action packed read. It sounds like a long book, but it reads well, and I finished it quickly, all the while wanting a sequel. I give it a firm 4 out of 5, and I'd recommend this to both YA and MG audiences. I also think reluctant readers would enjoy this quick plot and fun premise.

I received this book free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Waiting on Wednesday 5/18

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, and specifically spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. As always, there are some amazing upcoming books, but this week I'm particularly excited for...

Title: Blood Wounds
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publisher: Harcourt Children's
Published: September 12, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 256

Willa is lucky: She has a loving blended family that gets along. Not all families are so fortunate. But when a bloody crime takes place hundreds of miles away, it has an explosive effect on Willa’s peaceful life. The estranged father she hardly remembers has murdered his new wife and children, and is headed east toward Willa and her mother.

Under police protection, Willa discovers that her mother has harbored secrets that are threatening to boil over. Has everything Willa believed about herself been a lie? As Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear her family apart.
Ok, first of all, you might remember me saying once or twice how much I adored the book, Life As We Knew It. Second of all, you might remember me saying once or twice how much the final book of the series, This World We Live In, just left me hollow and disappointed. I remain, however, a devoted fan of the author, and I was SO excited to see a new title from her. I think Blood Wounds sounds harrowing, a bit scary and, frankly, incredibly powerful. Plus, that cover is eerie to the extreme. I definitely need this one in my hands! What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Top Ten Tuesday {3}

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. They'd love to share their lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week they will post a new top ten list that one of our bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.
Top Ten Favorite Minor Characters ( you know... all those great supporting character or a VERY minor character that might have been only in there a page or two but had an effect on you):

1. Tiny from Will Grayson, Will Grayson - Talk about a physically big character with a small part but a huge impact! Tiny wasn't around too much, but he made the book that much better. I just loved him.

2. Tonks from Harry Potter - I don't know if she's as minor as some people think, but in a long series with a huge cast of characters, her face time was minimal. That said, she made a massive impact in the parts in which she participated.

3. Madge from The Hunger Games - Well, let's be honest...Katniss would never have had that Mockingjay pin if it weren't for her, and that pin became a symbol for the Districts. So, it's arguable that she made a far bigger impact that some of the more active characters.

4. Adnarel from Many Waters - Adnarel should have had much more face-time than he did. As one of the Seraphim, he was obviously good, but was far more lovable than the author gave him credit for. I love him...can he have a spin-off, please?

5. Jenna from Wither - She was the least featured of Linden's three brides, but she had the biggest heart, in my honest opinion. I wish Rhine could have been more like her because she made that book for me.

6. Mia from Vampire Academy - I hated her, then I liked her, then I learned to adore her character. She wasn't around too, too much, but when she was, she made a huge difference in every single scene. That's the definition of a great character for me.

7. Murdoch from The Rules of Survival - His name meant a lot to the main character of the book, Matt, but he wasn't actually around that much. Whenever he was brought up though, all I felt was hope for Matt and his sisters.

8. Basil from Redwall - His impact grows throughout the book, but he's fairly minor in a massive cast of characters. He is, however, incredible comic relief and incredible brave. Yes, I have a hare on my list.

9. Emily from Dark Song - She's behind the scenes for a lot of the story after the initial action, but she remains in the background as a constant for Ames, even when her life is falling apart. She broke the mold and made the story more powerful.

10. Jon from This World We Live In - I loved this series until this book, but Jon managed to redeem what was left of the book for me (a little bit) at least. When all the characters lost hope and became pathetic, Jon still held out hope, and that, in turn, gave me hope.

Bitter End Review

Monday, May 16, 2011

Title: Bitter End
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: LB Books for Young Readers
Published: May 10, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 359
Source: Gift

When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole, a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her, she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate-someone who truly understands her and loves her for who she really is.

At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her best friends, Zack and Bethany, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all of her time with another boy? But as the months pass, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose - between her "true love" and herself.
Alex has found the guy of her dreams. He's everything - a star athlete, good looking and absolutely adores her. She can't imagine her life without him, and she has no intention of ever having to do so. There's something else taking hold of her relationship though, too. It's a kind of possessiveness that's foreign to Alex but very familiar to Cole. He doesn't want to have to share her, and he'll do anything to ensure he doesn't have to. Alex doesn't want to lose him, but it's more than that. She's afraid she's begun to lose herself, and she's not sure who she really is, or even was anymore.

I'm not going to dance around this review at all. I usually like to lead into a review and break it down into pieces, but some books make it easy for the reader to understand the book and feel fulfilled from the start. Bitter End was the epitome of a homerun YA contemporary read. Powerful, hard-hitting and extremely realistic, author Jennifer Brown clearly did her research when writing this book. Bitter End presents a story that's fairly common though often in an undercurrent in society, bringing it to a new light with a teenage girl who is vulnerable, yes, but learning to find herself through a maze of abuse.

Bitter End could very easily have been a so-so read. All that had to happen was have an emotionally disconnected main character with no spine and a self-deprecating attitude. Luckily, however, Alex was none of the above. She was a strong girl with the world at her feet, and the terror of her relationship with Cole was that it didn't start with blatant physical abuse. Cole slowly chipped away her armour until he had her in the palm of his hand. By that time, it was so believable that Alex was alone in her world that, as a reader, I could understand why Cole had such a power over her. Bitter End presented a harrowing tale with a main character that broke my heart and slowly helped me piece it back together again...a feat that is hard to find in a lot of the books I read.

I have a habit of looking for flaws in the books I read today, but I have to admit that I couldn't find any in Bitter End. Emotional and raw, I give it a 5 out of 5, and I'd recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction. Fans of Raw Blue will probably find this to be an extraordinary read.

I'm Not Her Review

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Title: I'm Not Her
Author: Janet Gurtler
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Published: May 1, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

“For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel envy…”

Tess is the exact opposite of her beautiful, athletic sister. And that’s okay. Kristina is the sporty one, Tess is the smart one, and they each have their place. Until Kristina is diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly Tess is the center of the popular crowd, everyone eager for updates. There are senior boys flirting with her. Yet the smiles of her picture-perfect family are cracking and her sister could be dying. Now Tess has to fill a new role: the strong one. Because if she doesn’t hold it together, who will?
Tess and Kristina couldn't be more different if they tried. Gorgeous and athletic, Kristina is the envy of all the girls and object of all boys' affection in high school. Tess is a budding artist, a quiet freshman and a self-professed geek. She's ok with it. She's like her father, while Kristina is like her mother. When Kristina discovers her knee injury is actually cancer though, her pretenses begin to slip and suddenly, her popularity shifts. While before she was beloved, now she's beloved and pitied, and Tess is the key to all things Kristina. But Tess never wanted the limelight, and she certainly didn't want it at Kristina's expense...especially when she might lose her sister forever.

I'm Not Her is, by no means, a light read. Tackling difficult material like cancer, the bonds of sisterhood and family and testing the waters of coming-of-age, it's written to push the envelope past normal into something more meaningful. Author Janet Gurtler provides the reader with the story of two sisters living polar opposite lives, simply orbiting around one another until an occurrence forces their worlds to collide. I'm Not Her is a story of finding oneself, the importance of family and the depth of character in the midst of turmoil and despair, written from the unadulterated viewpoint of a wallflower.

While, in theory, I should have loved I'm Not Her, I have to say I'm rather on the fence about rating it. Here's the thing. The author has a great writing voice that's accessible, easy to follow and perfectly describes two very different characters. That said, however, I don't think I ever really got to know Kristina past the surface, so I had a hard time truly feeling sorry for her, and Tess, too, was a bit surface-only. Furthermore, I love when books jump into the action from the get-go, but I felt I'm Not Her was a bit forced. Jumping straight from an overplayed high school drinking party (which, by the way, I never experienced...was I a super nerd?) to the drama of cancer was a bit much for me, and how the family handled it immediately felt foreign, as well. I guess, while I'm Not Her was meant to be emotional, it felt more jarring to me.

Now, I'm not saying I'm Not Her is a bad book by any means, but it is an example of what I don't really love about contemporary fiction. The author, however, has a great writing voice, and I would love to read more of her work in the future. I give this book a 2.5 out of 5, and I'd recommend it to fans of YA who especially enjoy contemporary fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Ashes, Ashes Review

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Title: Ashes, Ashes
Author: Jo Treggiari
Publisher: Scholastic
Published: June 1, 2011
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher

A thrilling tale of adventure, romance, and one girl's unyielding courage through the darkest of nightmares.

Epidemics, floods, droughts--for sixteen-year-old Lucy, the end of the world came and went, taking 99% of the population with it. As the weather continues to rage out of control, and Sweepers clean the streets of plague victims, Lucy survives alone in the wilds of Central Park. But when she's rescued from a pack of hunting dogs by a mysterious boy named Aidan, she reluctantly realizes she can't continue on her own. She joins his band of survivors, yet, a new danger awaits her: the Sweepers are looking for her. There's something special about Lucy, and they will stop at nothing to have her.
Lucy has seen in all in her sixteen years. After the climate changes and the natural disasters, the plagues wiped out nearly the rest of the population, and she's part of a small portion of the world that managed to survive. That, however, is what her life has become - survival. The last living member of her family, she happens upon a boy named Aidan who offers her the chance to be a part of a group again, and she has to make the choice to find new ways to survive. But in a world as chaotic as hers, Lucy finds that nature isn't the only thing she has to fear...the Sweepers want to get her, and they're as merciless as the weather.

I've read quite a broad spectrum of dystopian fiction in the last year, and I have to say that they've ranged from incredible to downright awful. That, unfortunately, means that I hold dystopian to a very high standard and it's often a straight yes or no for me. Ashes, Ashes, I'm pleased to say, didn't disappoint at all. Jo Treggiari has created a world in Ashes, Ashes that is terrifying and foreign, but somehow tangible and familiar, making one think that this might just be what's in store for us. Weaving a great plot, strong characters and a perfectly balanced writing voice, Ashes, Ashes spins a story that is the perfect blend of terror, romance, and reality for the reader.

Lucy, thought just sixteen, is a survivor. She's lived through enough and seen enough to know what has to be done to make it through. Aiden is the same way, and though he's her masculine counterpart in every sense of the word, the author managed to show his weaknesses and vulnerabilities, too, without hitting us over the head with them. The Sweepers were a character in and of themselves, sort of creeping along in the sidelines and waiting for the right time to pounce and set the action in Ashes, Ashes off on a fever pitch. And, while I royally detest cliffhangers, Ashes, Ashes features a simple ending that leaves room for more and certainly left me wanting more, though I still felt the story was well-rounded and complete, if that makes sense.

All in all, Ashes, Ashes was a fabulous read, and I'm so glad to see another great dystopian ready to take on the market. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I'm hoping against hope for a sequel (pretty please?!) I'd highly recommend this book to all fans of YA, both boys and girls, especially those who enjoy dystopian fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Waiting on Wednesday 5/11

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, and specifically spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. As always, there are some amazing upcoming books, but this week I'm particularly excited for...

Title: Sass & Serendipity
Author: Jennifer Ziegler
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Published: July 12, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 350

Daphne Rivera and her sister Gabby could not be more different.

For fifteen-year-old Daphne, the glass is always half full, a dab of lip-gloss can ward off a bad day, and the boy of her dreams—the one she's read about in all of her beloved romance novels—is waiting for her just around the corner.

But Daphne’s older sister Gabby wishes Daphne would get real. In Gabby’s world, everyone’s out for themselves, wearing makeup is a waste of time, and boys only distract you from studying before they break your heart. The only boy Gabby trusts is her best friend, Mule, who has always been there for her.

Both Gabby and Daphne are still reeling from their parents’ divorce, though in very different ways. While Gabby will never forgive her unreliable father for failing her mother, Daphne idolizes her daddy and is sure that everything would work out fine if her cranky mom would just let him back into their lives.
I want to read Sass & Serendipity for several reasons, the first being the super cute cover because, yes, I am THAT shallow. I'm also on a bit of a contemporary kick right now, and I'm looking for books that are sweet, push the envelope without trying too hard and still have a great theme. And finally, this is meant to be a play on Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility, which I adore, and as one of three daughters, any books with sisters, trials and tribulations speaks to my soul. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Top Ten Tuesday {2}

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. They'd love to share their lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week they will post a new top ten list that one of our bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.
Top Ten Jerks in Literature (all those jerky guys in books...those who truly WERE asshats and those who just acted like one but could actually be quite lovable):

1. Patch from Hush, Hush - Ok, seriously? I love me some bad guys, but this guy honestly takes the cake. I alternated between absolutely loathing him and slightly adoring him. Frankly, I can't figure him out.

2. Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter - Son of a douche. No, really, he is. He's a nasty little slimeball that I have both an aversion and a love of. Honestly, without him, I think HP might be a little lacking though, so I have to love his nastiness.

3. Jace from The Mortal Instruments - He's got a bit of a tricky exterior, but once you get past that, he's a marshmallow with a heart of gold. LOVE, I'm pretty sure this guy is epic eye candy. I'm jussayin'.

4. Adrian from Vampire Academy - He acts like a skeeze, and he quite often IS a skeeze, but when push comes to shove, he's got his heart in the right place. I'll also admit that my aversion to his character might just be because of my love of Dimitri though.

5. Voldemort from Harry Potter - Frankly, he should probably be the number one asshat on any list, but I figure I'll just list my 10 in an old order. If you want the embodiment of evil and right d-bag in the flesh, it's him. Honestly, there isn't a good bone in his creepy snakelike body anyway.

6. Varen from Nevermore - I wasn't sure I even liked the guy a tiny bit at the start of the book, but he grew on me. His perpetual honesty and reluctance to partake in anything really mundane made him more appealing, plus it made his interaction with Isobel more believable.

7. Kyle Kingsbury from Beastly - Remember those guys in high school who thought they were the sh*t and that the sun rose and set for them? That's Kyle in a nutshell, or at least, it was. I hated him for half the story, but through his transformation (both physical and mental), I got to see who he really was, and I loved it.

8. Luke from Percy Jackson - I loved him, then I hated him, then I pitied him, then I hated him, and then I just felt hollow. Honestly, I still don't know where I stand with Luke, but he's not a very nice guy, so I guess he's just a jerk.

9. President Snow from The Hunger Games - Well, how else do you feel about an evil sadomasochistic dictator hellbent on destroying the youth of the world's population for sport? He's as bad as Voldemort, and that's saying something.

10. Irial from Ink Exchange - Dark fae with creepy minds and hidden agendas...'nuff said.

Popular Review

Monday, May 9, 2011

Title: Popular
Author: Alissa Grosso
Publisher: Flux
Published: May 8, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 312
Source: Publisher

Meet the clique that rules Fidelity High: Olivia, Zelda, Nordica, and Shelly, each one handpicked by ├╝ber-popular Hamilton Best. You know you're "in" when you make the guest list for one of Hamilton's parties. And in the thralls of senior year, everyone wants to get noticed by Hamilton.

But Hamilton's elite entourage is coming apart at the seams. Olivia fantasizes about finally having a boyfriend, Zelda dreams of ditching high school, Nordica wants to be alone with her photography, and Shelly's plotting to dethrone Hamilton. Lies and secrets are ripping away the careful ties that have kept them together for years. But Hamilton has the biggest secret of all, one that only her boyfriend Alex knows. If the truth got out, it would shock everyone and destroy Hamilton's fragile world—and she'll do anything to protect her secret and keep her clique together.
If you look up the term "queen bee" in the dictionary, it's very likely that you'll find Hamilton Best's name. She's worked her way to the top of the social ladder, and she prides herself in the fact that's she's a part, if not what defines, elite at Fidelty High. But things are changing as Hamilton's "ladies in waiting" start developing desires beyond high school, itself. Hamilton hates the fact that her group is slipping, but she's finding her own secret makes it hard for her to hold onto her title, as well. Can she restore balance and order, stay on top of the social pyramid and survive the school year, or will she lose everything she's fought to create?

Popular sounded like a hit or miss book for me based on the premise because I'm not sold on that alone. Let's be honest - how many twists can an author put on the same idea? Popular girl, popular followers, deep, dark secret, yadda yadda...that's what I was thinking going into the book. Popular managed to shake things up though, and author, Alissa Grosso, pushed her book beyond the mere premise and add a layer of depth that shook the story, defined the characters and made it a poignant read. Balancing a tricky plotline, a full cast of characters and a powerful thematic undercurrent, Popular pleasantly surprised me.

Popular promised a twist with Hamilton's secret, and it certainly didn't disappoint. I was not expecting what happened, and it added an extra dimension to Hamilton's character because she seemed so shallow and surface-heavy. While the beginning started a bit cliche, Hamilton's secret and the strained relationship between the girls helped spiral Popular to the climax, which truly changed everything. All that aside though, I will admit that Popular took a few chapters to become acquainted with though, as four different points of view was tricky to maneuver. Once I became familiar with the various voices though, I managed to get into the story, which ultimately led to the twist in Popular that ended up truly redeeming the book for me.

All in all, Popular was a surprisingly good read. Contemporary fiction like this has to fight through the cliches to become something more, and Popular managed to switch things up with the hidden twist. I give it a very strong 3.5 out of 5, and I'd recommend it to those who enjoy YA, especially those who like contemporary fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

In My Mailbox 5/8

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In My Mailbox is an amazing weekly meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren that features the books we have received during the week. It's so much fun because we get to see what our fellow bloggers stumbled upon this week and add even more to our piles of books! Without further ado, this week I received the following books: (And YES...I'm really back full-time from Africa!)

Thank you, Rich

New Orleans, 2006. Sixteen year old Eliza Felding desires perfect looks, a dashing romance and all the popularity and prestige in the world. Yet sadly she is not getting it, as she is simply average....That is...until a magical organization discovers her, and offers her an invitation she cannot refuse. Now with the help of magic, Eliza's life suddenly turns around, as she can now make herself beautiful and attract the love of her life, which she does.


A mysterious someone iss killing the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle and displaying their bodies around New York City in a manner designed to provoke hostility between Downworlders and Shadowhunters, leaving tensions running high in the city and disrupting Clary’s plan to lead as normal a life as she can — training to be a Shadowhunter, and pursuing her relationship with Jace. As Jace and Clary delve into the issue of the murdered Shadowhunters, they discover a mystery that has deeply personal consequences for them.  

Friday Fix #53 - Meet Erika!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Friday Fix is a takeover of my Friday blog post by other bloggers who have volunteered their time and energy to "star" in their very own guest post on Friday. Only one mandatory rule (you can't get out of it!) - you must answer five of the most random questions I throw your way. The rest is up to you. Remember, if you'd like to be featured on the Friday Fix, send me an email, and let me know! So, without further ado, here are the Erika from Moonlight Book Reviews!
The Most Random Questions in the World...

1. Why is an alarm clock going "off" if it's actually turning on?

An alarm clock is turning on because you had the good intentions to turn it off and get up, but you instead smacked it off the nightstand and it went off.

2. Why does one say they're "taking a dump" if they're actually leaving one?

I blushed so hard at this one!! You don't talk of defecation in public!! That is a European *pun intended* that was mistranslated into the English Language. In Europe they actually say, "I am going to leave a dump".

3. Why does mineral water that's been "trickling through mountains for centuries" go out of date next year?

It is not in the rocks life force anymore so it gets old.

4. Why do people point to their wrist when asking for the time, but it's wrong to point to your crotch when asking for the restroom?

You don't have a toilet strapped to your crotch like a watch. Unless I am mistaken.

5. Do blind people see in their dreams?

Well I was not qualified to answer this so I turned to The American Association for the blind. i am going to cover all my bases here and answer for the two types of blindness. One, Who are blind by birth : These people do not see colors in their dream. Their dreams includes only noises & emotions. Two,Who became blind due to any happening in life: These people see colors in their dreams but the intensity of the colors is associated with the time when they last seen the colors in their original life before being blind.


Erika, you handled my decidedly indiscreet/vaguely humiliating questions with far more grace than I could ever have done, so kudos to you! To all of you, please check out Erika's awesome site, Moonlight Book Reviews for fab features, reviews interviews and more!

In other news, I have to extend a HUGE thank you to all of you for being loyal followers even during my absence while in Africa. Yes, I have more huge changes coming this fall (which I'll announce fairly soon), but I'll do my best to keep you all pumped for the amazing books out there today!

Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3) Review

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Title: Shadow Kiss
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Published: November 13, 2008
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Pages: 443
Source: Personal Copy

For Rose Hathaway, everything seems out of kilter. Ever since she made her first Strigoi kills, a dark shadow has been creeping over her. Looming in the background, too, is another realization: If she follows her forbidden love for guardian Dimitri Belikov, she might lose her best friend forever.

And these sleep-shaking worries couldn't have come at a worse time. The immortal unloving are prowling everywhere, famished for vengeance against her.
Rose is destined for greatness as Lissa's guardian, and as Lissa is the last of the Dragomir line, it's all the more important. Things are changing though. Rose is finding herself plagued by shadows of those who shouldn't be around anymore, and it's scaring her. To keep control, she begins to keep secrets from those who matter most to her, including Lissa and Dimitri, who might just be the only ones who can help her now. Can she realize that she needs them as much as they need her in time, or will it be too late? There are some things one can't come back from.

I feel this is an appropriate time for me to apologize to all Vampire Academy fans out there for the snide little remarks I made about the series because of the vampire plotline. Colour me nuts, but I'm officially obsessed, and I never in a gazillion-billion-trillian years thought I'd have to concede that. Shadow Kiss is book three in the six book series, and has effectively built the suspense to a fever pitch making it a serious page-turner. Alternating action, drama, suspense and terror on every page, Shadow Kiss is a true triumph for author, Richelle Mead.

I felt the series was a little shaky with book one, I'll admit. I understand why it was the way it was now though. Shadow Kiss doesn't need excessive backstory now because the prior books elaborated and detailed everything one needs to know, so we get dropped right into the action. Rose and Lissa, though close, still have separate lives and turmoil to deal with. For Rose, she's not only trying to come to terms with seeing things, but also trying to hide her love for Dimitri, and it gets harder all the time. I will admit, I found her a bit whiny because of this at times, but it kind of went hand-in-hand with her age. Honestly, Lissa annoyed me at times, too, because she had this total "holier-than-thou," everything is about me attitude. Dimitri, however exudes utter sexiness and power from every page, and let's just say there were several moments during Shadow Kiss that I'm pretty sure my heart fell right out of my body.

Despite aggravating immaturity at times, Shadow Kiss was a fantastic, riveting read that I couldn't put down. I definitely think it's the best of the series thus far. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I'd recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy paranormal stories and those involving vampires.

Waiting on Wednesday 5/4

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, and specifically spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. As always, there are some amazing upcoming books, but this week I'm particularly excited for...

Title: Masters of the Veil
Author: Daniel Cohen
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Published: March 1, 2012
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Pages: 300

Life can’t get much better for Sam Lock. Popular, good-looking, and with a future as a professional football player… every guy at Stanton High School wishes he were Sam. That is, until his championship football game, when Sam accidentally links with an ancient source of energy known as the Veil and reveals his potential to become a powerful sorcerer.

Sam’s dreams are crushed as he is whisked off to Atlas Crown, a community of sorcerers who utilize the Veil as a part of everyday life. Once there, he trains beside a mute boy who speaks through music, an eternal sage who is the eyes and ears of the Veil, and a beautiful girl who's pretty sure Sam's an idiot.

As it becomes clear that Sam is meant for power magic—the most feared and misunderstood form of sorcery—people beyond Atlas Crown learn of his dangerous potential. An exiled group of power sorcerers are eager to recruit Sam, believing that he is destined to help them achieve their long-held goal. If they succeed, they could bring about the downfall of not only Atlas Crown… but all of humankind.
I read The Ancillary's Mark by Daniel Cohen a while back, and I was surprised by how good it was because I wasn't the biggest fan of the cover, and we all know I'm a cover slut. That said, I was excited to hear he has a new book/series coming out, and I'm looking forward to reading another book with a great male MC...something I don't really read enough of. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?


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